The Duck Theory – Why People Who Have It All Commit Suicide

If you’ve used the phrase ‘chin up’ or ‘just get some fresh air’ you might never have experienced a mental health illness.

I’ve spent my life changing jobs when the facade drops and the mask falls off, as I’ve felt embarrassed and shamed by outbursts, episodes or difficulties with my own mental health. I’ve left workplaces I’ve loved, rather than explained myself to avoid the shame from the stigma attached. Why am I hot-mess in a swirl of chaos and drama followed by periods of bleak anxiety or despair? Following a relapse this week, I am speaking out about my mental health difficulties. In seeing the truth, will my professional achievements be tarnished? Do I risk losing another career opportunity? I hope in using my voice, my coping mechanisms will be recognised as the debilitating effect of depression is realised, without being written off.

In a society where the most capable, intelligent, over-achieving women are restricted behind a glass ceiling, what becomes of the rest of us? Is it better to have predictability in a poor manager than unpredictability in a great one?

I have long studied the science of management and leadership in its practicality and theory. It is my favourite subject. To date, my proudest achievements lie in my time building hospitality teams under pressured conditions. & I still hope to have a career and raise a family, but fear that explaining my difficulties will render me ‘unreliable’ – a stark contrast to how I see my personality and work ethic.

Mental health, and difficulties with such, is an illness and doesn’t make me unstable, unsound or incapable. The symptoms can be challenging and debilitating, but the disorder doesn’t define a person, especially if we support people to manage it, recognising triggers and stress factors in the way we recognise adaptations for those with physical ailments.

Often creative, talented leaders with problem-solving skills have a bipolar or a depressive disorder. Two of my most inspiring managers had depression. When one took me under his wing, I pushed him away outraged by his suggestion of medication. In hindsight, not such a bad idea after all.

These individuals can be the life and soul of the party, the host at social events or the hunter- gatherer; providing for their pack, functioning on the surface.

So how is this all related to ducks? The Duck Theory or Duck Syndrome offers insight, that like the metaphorical duck, many suffering are seemingly swimming along calmly as expected but could be paddling frantically beneath the surface. This theory was noted in 2015 by The NY Times during an alarming number of campus suicides when bright, gifted, privileged university students committed suicide, to the shock of their loved ones who believed ‘they had everything’. The lack of awareness surrounding mental health struggles left these individuals feeling there was nowhere to turn during difficult times in their lives. Some may have had underlying disorders and some may have had difficult experiences but the circumstances suggest they didn’t seek help. They kept paddling like the duck, struggling silently.

I am looking at alternatives to medication, but it’s something I’m considering. In fear of losing the highs, I would save myself from the lows. What would happen if I just stepped in front of an oncoming train? These moments are only ever fleeting and brief yet those perfect ‘little ducks’ mentioned above who committed suicide were noted as describing their suicidal thoughts as ‘fleeting’ , ‘brief‘ and ‘not real‘ too.

Those individuals are no longer with us.

What occurred between that moment and that of their death? An attempt to end their life or an attempt to end the pain? Didn’t their families know? Wasn’t it obvious? According to ‘The Duck Theory’, maybe not as obvious as we think.

Reminding people of lifes luxuries is rather irrelevant. I love my life and I am so blessed which only adds to the guilt, I know others share, in not even understanding their own pain. The confusion between loving every little moment of life and simultaneously hoping the pain ends is exhausting.

My personal experience of tight rope walking between the two puts my nerves on edge. Anxiety triggers are in everyday life and I have my own avoidances, so boss, if you’re reading, I’m not lazy or ridiculous. I promise. My brain just doesn’t function the same as yours. Some days getting out of bed is an achievement for me.

As a coping strategy to deal with the symptoms; anxiety, heart palpitations, insomnia, depression and disconnection I feel from society, I still take great pleasure in my friendships, a way to cling to my purpose and identity. Some normality.

In the same way that we make allowances for people with physical impairments, my life is centred around these coping strategies identifying stress and triggers. I have managed this far through hormones, diet and adjusting my lifestyle. I take on project focused work, part time hours, avoiding my known triggers as a survival mechanism. However at 25 I have to accept that I am battling on my own and as with most forms of depression, it only worsens without professional treatment. I need help and I’m finally sharing my experience with bipolar, depression and mental health to increase understanding and awareness.

Be kind , we never know what battles someone is facing.

BFF ABROAD has been an ever-evolving project of mine and platform to talk about topics and issues that are interesting to me. I love to host and cater parties and reach out to new Expats in the community facilitating friendships and expat lives in this beautiful city. It is wonderful to also have a platform I can detail my own journeys in the hope to raise awareness and provide strength to others who are facing the same battles. Expat life is challenging but no matter if it’s dating, paperwork or mental health, we are never alone.

THAT NIE FORM THING. Getting legal in Spain.

Becoming an expat in Spain sounds fabulous. A new life, experiencing new culture whilst partying and making friends? It is pretty great. But it can also be very very stressful, especially navigating a system with paperwork you know nothing about, in a language you likely can’t speak yet. This is a post about SS, NIE, PADRON & HEALTHCARD

Here I’ll simplify a how to guide based on my own personal experience for EU passport holders to get your paperwork sorted but please note this is Spain and you have to be patient, very patient.  The below is not GUARENTEED, simply how I was able to navigate the system (which can only be described as a complete fucking stab in the dark) .You will have the wrong forms, you will be turned away and you will have to try again but hopefully a little clearer and you’ll know what to expect with this;

What For? SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER (equivalent of EU healthcare / NHS / tax access to work contracts and healthcare)

1. Complete the TA-1 Form. It’s not as hard as it looks I promise. 

2. Also prepare photocopies and originals of the following;

  • Passport
  • Work Contract 
  • NIE  if you have it (or you may have to carry out the below first and come back to this later. I was accepted without this);

3. Go to your nearest  Tesorería de la Seguridad Social . I went to Calle Santa Cruz de Marcenado, 22 (San Bernando, Bilbao metros) and was given a ticket and seen within 30minutes. 

What For? NIE CARD AND NIE NUMBER (right to work and formal identification)

1. Complete two copies of each form. You can do this online but I have found a physical copy easier to work with;

2. Go to your bank and pay a fee of 10 euros 90 paid in cash. Not all banks carry out this service but POPULAR did for me. Note , the banks near the office will be FILLED with expats doing the same thing – try and do this in your own town before you go. 

3. Take this two forms and the receipt of payment, plus two photocopies of your passport to CALLE SAN FELIPE, 7, 28020. (Tetuan metro is close).

4. Head to the counter and get a ticket number to be called. You may be here a while so be prepared to wait! I waited about an hour so I was lucky. 

The number given will be yours for 3 months and at this stage only in paper form. 

5. COLLECT NIE CARD: the number is yours but the paper bit lasts for 3 months. 

This will either be the original place OR go to PADRE PIQUER 18 with the following (these should be too much but better to be prepared than turned away!);

• Proof of your appointment either paper or printed email known as ‘justificante’
• Original and copy of your passport
• Form EX-15 as above
• Social Security number
• European Healthcare Card (if you have one)

• A common reason is that you need to ‘open a bank account’
• You have been ‘offered a work contract’ / job (bring this if you have it)

What For? EMPADRONAMIENTO Certificate (proof of residency and address needed to obtain doctors card, voting etc)

** if you don’t have a rental contract, at the first appointment you need to ask for an authorisation form to prove you have permission to be wherever you are living. 

  1. Complete the above EX 18 form and go to CALLE ATOCHA 70 and ask for an CITA for EMPADRON/ PADRON / 
  2. Note they will ask you if you live with your landlord and have PROOF of this (rent contract) or if you don’t have a contract you need an authorisation form from them. 
  3. Return on the date given with the below;

• Proof of your appointment (letter given at first visit)
• NIE Card (and photocopy)
• Passport (and photocopy)
• Rental contract (I took my receipts as well as I pay in cash)
** if you don’t have a rental contract you will need the authorisation form instead. 


What For? HEALTH CARD (healthcard for residency used for doctors appointments etc)

1. Find your Centro de Salud or Centro Sanitario  and take the following with you;

• Social Security number
• European healthcare card (if you have one)
• Empadronamiento / padron certificate 
• Passport 
• NIE 

phewwww, so by the end of all of this you should have your SS, NIE, PADRON & TARJETA DE SALUD!!! Next step… citizenship?!

If you need help navigating all of this then please send me a message as I am happy to help. The system changes frequently and often the above may occur in a different order. If the links break – I have included the names of the forms for you to search and download the most recent versions! For sure I’ve probably left something out.

With thanks to, Gareth Sewell and Kirrealea Davis for their support with my own move a few months ago.

Gareth is contactable via and currently facilitates EAT OUT MADRID frequently mentioned on our site. 

WELCOME TO SPAIN! I got a tattoo to remember this stage in my life. How will you celebrate?


F Boys Everywhere & It’s Your Fault

Do NOT accept shitty behaviour, shitty relationships or second best.

For everyone who has ever wondered why they didn’t call back or why you got cancelled on, again, and why as you sit in your apartment (happy right? Isn’t that what we tell everyone?) with your fabulous single life, but even that cat has concerns for you? Well this post is for you. Why do we choose to ignore the HUGE RED FLAGS?

I’m done. & you should be too. I REFUSE any longer to allow those who, are simply not up to the job to play with my emotions and it is so true that you get what you accept. So why do we enter relationships with this rose tinted notion and cling to it when its so patently obvious its painful and toxic? What makes us drawn to the non committals and emotionally unavailable? And even worse, why do we continue to chase it when its over?

I have many discussions with women who are in the same cycle, asking themselves but why is he treating me like this, when really the question we should ask ourselves is why are we letting them? 

This week, I finally let go of my ex and our mutual friends. It was causing me so much heartache wondering why he was being nice but not wanting to be with me, wanting to see me but not wanting to love me. I hear daily from girls who are hurting seeing photos of their ex all over social media with new women – so why are you looking? 

  1. BLOCK
  3. out of sight, out of mind


You have to let go of what is killing you, even if it is killing you to let go.

SIGNS THAT YOU SHOULD LET GO – that you are probably ignoring;

  • He doesn’t text you back or takes days, even weeks to do so.
  • He says he will call, then never does.
  • Only contacting you when he is drunk ( a personal favourite of mine )
  • He is openly with another woman / being disrespectful in front of you
  • Displaying hot and cold behaviour 
  • Blaming you or seemingly shifting blame for things onto you that don’t need so.
  • Passive aggressive messages inducing guilt
  • Selective message response (ignore some emotional content messages or just responding back without addressing your point / question
  • Cancels on you last minute or never follows through with plans or only makes plans with you NOW. Clearly hes bored.

Ask yourself one thing – if you stopped contacting this man – would he make the effort for you?

Would he show up with roses or at least some decent condoms? If the answer is no to one,  or god forbid both of them, then what are you doing? Why do you think so low of yourself that you are chasing this gillapollas attention? Trust me, I’ve been there. I know why, but girl you will feel so much better if you give yourself the chance to heal. There WILL BE another, more worthy if you allow them to find you instead of wasting time and energy.

The truth is, if he loves you or is even a little interested, he will text you back. He will chase you and even if you do f it up, he will still come back. Life throws things at us that are supposed to come our way and when it is time to let go it hurts, but maybe we cling to things we shouldn’t. If we hadn’t chased him in the beginning when he displayed all those signs above, we may never have let our hearts get so tangled. 

I think about my recent heartache that I was so entwined in, believing it was love, the one, my person but really there were warning signs I didn’t want to see. If I hadn’t been the driving force behind us, there never would have been an us and if there was, things would be different. Maybe a little slower and maybe a little more love.


Do NOT accept shitty behaviour, shitty relationships or second best. YOU ARE WORTH IT. Wait for the stars, they will come, or maybe they will pass you by if you are still texting the fuck boy who is drinking in the plaza with his mates instead.

Your choice. 😉


Yummy Cheap Expat – ETHIOPIAN WAY

As promised some tasty budget friendly, vegan friendly, gf friendly, basically-delicious-for-everyone meals will be posted here too! When watching calories – substitute oil for a low calorie spray or alternative. 

Starting this week with some shopping – I highly recommend DIA for their purse friendly prices but be warned that the 50% label applies if you buy TWO of the item, not off the first one. 

This week I cooked up a feast for our Madrid BFF Abroad Club ladies made up of traditional Ethiopian recipes and shared on a big platter. Everything served was gluten free, sugar free (except ‘Ful’ which had tinned tomatoes) and vegan.


High in protein and easy to make you may want to try them at home; I’m not a cook who follows recipes that well so mine below are very sketchy versions but so doable for anyone who claims they can’t or don’t enjoy cooking. I had a lot of fun throwing everything in the pots.


Food served in this way on a big platter is a communal way to enjoy the warming meal together. Traditionally, no utensils are used although we had some extra forks, but we also had a go at tearing off bite sized pieces of Injera bread (made from teff and drizzled with lemon juice) to scoop up and dip into the varied platter. We also had ‘ful’ served on the side which is my absolute favourite.

INJERA BREAD – Purchased from Restaurant Gonder Etiope en La Latina. £1 per slice and naturally gluten free. I bought 12 slices for 10 of us, and I still have 5 left in my fridge but it’s keeping nicely. I layered the base of the dish and then had a spare platter for dipping and tear and share. It’s kind of like a pancake. 

Azifa with Bebere Spice Mix

SHIRO WAT (Ground Lentil &/ Chickpea Stew)
Traditionally you need SHIRO and BERBERE powder but I couldn’t find this anywhere so I threw a jar of chickpeas, handful of frozen peas and cubed potatoes, and the base of the powders which was garlic, ginger, basil, cumin, pepper, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Having a raging hangover and 4 hours sleep, I left it to slow cook for 4 hours but I accidentally burnt this dish, rushing in to rescue it after 3 hours and saved the most part. Considering it had a smokey burnt flavour through it – the ladies ate it all up and no one said a thing! Phew got away with that one! It’s yellow colour came from turmeric. 

ATAKILT WAT (cabbage)
This is so easy. Cabbage, oil garlic, ginger, cumin, salt and lemon juice. Add turmeric gives it the yellow colour. Serve!

Preparing the feast

FUL (bean stew often served as a starter or on the side)
My absolute FAVOURITE dish, I use the base of this for all my veganised meat dishes as its so tasty and the texture is warm and meaty. Traditionally using FAVA beans, again not found in my area, I used a jar of red beans, half a tin of chopped tomatoes, olive oil and about two cups of stock water from a veggie soup I had left over. I let it cook down for about 3 hours with cumin, garlic, parsley and some ginger, basil, salt to taste.

BEET SALAD (roast mix)
Most par boil but I didn’t have enough pots for that, so I chopped up a fresh beetroot, handful of carrots and potatoes and roasted in the oven with some ginger, garlic salt and oil for about two hours. Omg yum. 

AZIFA (green lentils)
I have enough of this to feed the 5000 still in my fridge. The great thing about lentils is they are so cheap and go so far. Chuck in a few cups of lentils, (if not pre soaked expect to cook them for a LONG time. Mine took about 5 hours) the other of the large tin of chopped tomatoes. Onion powder, olive oil, some mustard and lemon juice to taste.

AYIB (fresh cottage cheese)
As I was cooking a vegan version, I substituted the fresh cheese for a soy yogurt as the fresh sour taste is divine with the salty spicy mix on the platters! Went down a treat.

Overall the dinner was a success! It took about 6 hours to prepare from start to finish but a lot of the dishes can be prepared in advance if you aren’t a hungover mess like me. The good thing is it so cured my hangover with all the proteins and yummy veg.


Have you had ethiopian food before? What is your favourite? Try cook it at home and let us know how it is!


A Quick Guide to Sexual Health in Madrid

Not sure how to stay safe as an Expat?

Understanding the health system in a foreign language can be exhausting and often if you’re like me you’ll be putting it off as long as you can!

When it comes to sexual health however, it’s no joke that many diseases can be incurable and cause long term infertility if left untreated and getting regular checks will give you peace of mind and keep you safe. Plus it’s totally free!

What You Need
Your NIE / TIE
Confirmation of Surname & Address

Where To Go

Programa Municipal de Prevencion del Sida y ETS (Goya o M. Becerra Metro)
For : FULL PANEL – all STDs 
at 8AM M-F No appointments necessary
Calle de Montesa, 22, 28006 Madrid for a FULL panel

Centro Madrid Salud (Callao Metro)
at 9am – 10.30am M-T No appointments necessary
Gynaecological appointments available on request by calling 915889660 
Calle de las Navas de Tolosa, 10, 28013 Madrid for HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis

Centro Sanitario Sandoval (Bilbao Metro)
Unsure which STI’s are included, please enquire 914452328
at 9AM M-F No appointments necessary
Calle Sandoval, 7,  Madrid 

What to Expect;

  1. After checking into the reception for ‘ programa de prevencion del sida y ETS’ o ‘salud sexual’ and handing over your identity card you will be told which room and floor to go to.
  2. An initial assessment is asked with questions such as;

– What vaccinations have you had?
– Where are you from? Where were you born?
– Are you taking oral contraceptives?
– Do you have any current symptoms or visible issues?

3. Next you will be taken to for bloods and advice and asked if you’d like to wait                     20 minutes for your HIV results at the Centro Madrid Salud en Callao, others may vary. Call back in two weeks for the other results!

4. Don’t forget to take their free condoms in the waiting rooms.

If you need oral contraceptives – you may purchase these over the counter from the pharmacy.

Results There is a 6 week incubation period for HIV from sex to testing at these centres and they will remind you that this can affect the results prior to taking it, however if you have concerns there are options to take at A&E in the immediate 72hr time post intercourse

If you’d like someone to go with you, or your Spanish skills are limited, send me a quick email or contact us via BFF ABROAD on Facebook and I would be delighted to accompany you.

Stay safe xoxo

How To Eat Your Way Through Heartache

Want to eat more and lose weight whilst improving your mental health? It worked for me! A post for all those exhausted and drained. Perhaps you have lost a loved one, had a traumatic experience or recently broken up with a partner, and you’ve reached the point of giving up. Sometimes it can be really challenging to get control back over your life and you may become stuck in a cycle of crying it out and feeling miserable. Whilst this is necessary for a time, there does come a point where it is healthy to indulge in yourself and your health to feel better. This doesn’t mean snapping out of it or ignoring your melancholy mood, but rather giving yourself the love and care you deserve. 

I once had a heartbreak so draining, I lost myself completely. Many of my friends recognised I had become a shadow of my former self and I didn’t know how to get out of this dark hole I had fallen into. Soon I felt my life had no purpose or control, except to feel an unworthy devastating mess, unable to hold normal conversation without falling apart. Many of my emotional symptoms became very real;

  • heart palpitations

So how did I overcome it once and for all to get my life back? 

You may have heard of ‘Deliciously Ella’ who claims to have cured her symptoms of MS through eating a gluten free vegan diet. This massively inspired my change through her  series – as, if her very real disease was improved, could my lack of interest in life be cured as well? Spoiler alert – YES! How did I do it too and where can you start?

I was already dairy free for 10 years due to allergies and so I have always paid attention to ingredients, and if you have eaten everything and anything, this may be the biggest change for you but the principles are very simple. I don’t stick to it 100% but I eat this way 80% so I can still indulge in a bit of bread or goats cheese and feel fantastic.

No packages, no processed goods. Simple!

I found that by cutting out gluten helped me avoid all those carb heavy foods which bloated me and by eating vegan, I could increase my plate size (YUM) and eat more as the calories in the meals were lower with better nutrition. Soon I found I could eat much more

I began losing weight, a complete heartbreak diet bonus – the healthy way!

After 18months of hell in heartache, I finally began to have my life back in a matter of weeks. My concentration improved and I began to have more focus at work, landing a dream job and being very successful. The key however is PLANNING. You don’t necessarily need to prepare every meal in advance but it’ll be way less stressful if you make a big one pot meal and section it into some tuppaware goods for the week. You’ll find you wont slip off the wagon either into comfort eating rubbish.


  • TUPPAWARE lunch boxes – meal size for the freezer. There isn’t much point getting a huge tub to freeze which you’d have to defrost in one go.
  • Slow Cooker
  • Smoothie Maker or Blender, nothing fancy required but the Breville or Vitamix style are great as you can blend the ingredients in your carry cup so there is less mess, a total god send!

VEGAN? GLUTEN FREE? ARE YOU NUTS!! I don’t like lettuce! 

Wait wait wait, the below meals are all my staple v,gf and they are YUM and healthy too!

  • Curries
  • Soups
  • Risotto
  • Pasta and Pizza – YES REALLY!
  • Snack Plate / Crudites / Tapas
  • Salads
  • Roast
  • Bean Stew
  • Veggie Lasagna and ‘Mince’ style Dishes
  • Cous Cous
  • and more!

I will start posting my favourite recipes for you to follow but vegansing your favourite meals has never been easier or cheaper. You may wish to invest in a copy of Ella’s book where I started, but you may find some of her ingredients are on the pricier side, but the principles are the same. The MAIN ingredients to swap out which you will love to try I promise is the below;

  • For mince dishes – I used a mix of tomatoes, white beans and green lentils. 
  • For soups – I use jarred chickpeas as the juice they sit in ‘aquafaba’ is very oily like a yummy chicken broth
  • For curries – coconut milk and spices are your friend plus adding juicey fruits and pineapples instead of your meat

Ready to start your ultimate self love journey? try it for 3 months. If you don’t like it, you can simply enjoy the cash you will have for a while or you may find a few meals you love to keep forever.

Stay tuned for the recipes that got me back to health and happiness!



Get The Glow

They say that after the age of 25 everything declines. Your skin regenerates at a much lower rate and you find the signs of ageing begin to appear. Although minimal at this stage, there’s a decline in fertility, collagen and generally things are a bit more difficult than they used to be. I certainly know that now that hangover takes days to recover and I have less energy than before.

So how do we defy the signs of ageing but do so gracefully without looking like we have been under the plastic surgeons knife?

Everyone has a vice. Mine is alcohol (and obsession with sleep- whether I’m getting too much or too little I never seem to get it right) and it’s permanently shown on my face.

You may have seen celebrities engaging in blood-drawn facials, carried out with expensive equipment and machinery but what if we take some of those principles and apply the very basics at home? Well that’s what I did with pleasing results and many have cited reduced appearance of acne scars too.  

& THE SCIENCE / RESEARCH behind these results? 

More than 80% of patients assessed their treatment as ‘excellent’ on a 10-point scale. No significant adverse effects were noted in any patient. Click this link for the full findings

After a bit of research and recommendations from friends, I tried Alpha-H Liquid Gold after use of a derma-roller as an at home treatment but starting out with the smallest needles I can find. The principles of this derma roller or micro-needling is to increase the skins collagen production by encouraging healing after mild puncturing of the top layers. The stronger the needle, the more puncturing it does and as I don’t have any acne scars, I went with a low point 1mm needle.


Using them together has had a huge difference on my face and it is visible to see that just once a week, use of these has given me a glow and I feel healthier.

My under eye circles have lightened and I have not changed my drinking or sleeping habits and my diet this has remained the same (little plant based bunny)

I’m not a doctor and I advocate caution when using these products but I can only speak from my own experience.

I purchased my roller from Amazon and got 1 mm one this size of this needle, which is enough to make my face a bit red and I can feel the exfoliation but I would probably get a higher needle next time.  Specifically if you wish to treat acne I would recommend a higher needle count but anything over 4 is not recommended for home use and should be done in a professional salon environment.

To carry out this treatment at home, I highly recommend own research as I am not a medically trained professional. However this is my home routine which I do once a week;

  • Cleanse & Tone the skin before hand (I often do this in the bath as the steam really clears and cleans)
  • Apply a serum of your choice with moisturising or anti ageing properties to protect the skin as this will be penetrated into the skin during treatment. I use a Vitamin C base.
  • Ensuring the roller is clean – roll in 4 or 5 directions over each area of skin, taking particular care under the eyes.
  • Apply your Alpha-H Liquid Gold using cotton pads. You may experience mild tingling. I also apply Alpha-H twice more on its own during the week on alternate days.

Many people find using a derma-roller or ‘micro needling’ as a bit daunting at first, but it can show fantastic results in those suffering from acne or in the treatment and reduction of scarred skin and pores. Give it a try!

Special thanks to Lauren at LASH PERFECT for recommending the amazing Alpha-H which has changed my skincare regime for good!

What are your favourite skin care products? Have you tried micro needling? Comment and tell us below!